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Acute Care Advisor 2017.1 Copyright © 2017 RelayHealth, a division of McKesson Technologies Inc. All rights reserved.

What is abdominal pain?


Abdominal pain is aching or cramping in your belly. The abdomen, or belly, is the area between the chest and the pelvis. The pain can range from mild discomfort to severe pain.


Many things can cause abdominal pain and it can sometimes be hard to know the exact cause of the pain. Some of the common causes of pain in the abdomen are:

  • Indigestion or heartburn

  • Infections, such as food poisoning or stomach flu

  • Food allergy

  • Stress and anxiety

  • Gastritis (an irritation of the stomach lining) or ulcers

  • Constipation

  • Menstruation

  • Hernia

  • Urinary tract infection

  • Diseases of the intestine

  • Appendicitis

  • Pancreatitis or liver problems

  • Disease or infection in the uterus

  • Kidney stone

  • Gallbladder inflammation or gallstones

  • Cancer


Sometimes abdominal pain is caused by a problem in another part of the body, such as the lungs or the heart. For example, a heart attack can cause upper abdominal pain.


You cannot always tell how serious the cause is from how bad the pain is. Mild conditions such as gas or stomach flu may cause severe pain, while more serious problems, such as cancer, may cause relatively mild pain.